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Sniffing out the opportunities… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes uses his nose to track down some licensing activity in Wilko this week.

This week I spread my retail wings further and popped into a branch of Wilko in New Malden. Wilko – or Wilkinsons – is a multi product retailer which focuses on value and runs a mixed range of products combining strong own brand offers with well known brands.

In some ways it reminds me of the old Woolworths’ stores although I don’t think Wilko offers Pick ‘n’ Mix confectionery (it does have a Millions confectionery vending fixture though). Wilko has traditionally been a good supporter of licensing and licensed lines have featured in its offering including on a number of occasions own brand licensing ranges. So I travelled in hope and expectation. However on this visit I thought Wilko was licensing lite – maybe this is a reflection of current trading conditions and it is focusing on its own brands more. I definitely felt it had upped its game on the own brand offers across all categories including gardening, pet care and home décor.

However as a Licensing lookout it is my job to make every shop visit worthwhile licensing wise, so I was determined to sniff out some licensing. And I literally did. I was attracted into the car care section by a range of Lynx Car Fresheners. Lynx is a well established brand in personal care, owned by Unilever. It has developed deodorants, bodywash, shampoo and aftershave. Lynx has a well established retail presence, is well supported marketing wise and popular with young men in particular. Recently it has worked with boxer Anthony Joshua and has even released a Marmite fragranced product – all of which help with consumer engagement and helps it to compete with other brands.

Licensing seems like a natural progression for the Lynx brand.
Licensing seems like a natural progression for the Lynx brand.

Licensing seems like a natural progression for the Lynx brand. Moving into car air fresheners makes sense. It is a category that Lynx’s core consumers are likely to use and they will recognise the brand. It dials up Lynx’s fragrances well and creates an ambient advertising opportunity.

The car air fresheners were developed by Custom Accessories Europe (CAE). It is a well established licensee in the category and as such is a licensee Unilever can trust with the Lynx brand. Car air fresheners are a product category that has seen a lot of licensing in recent years, with an emphasis on brands that are closely identified with flavour and fragrance such as Tango, Swizzels Matlow and Jelly Belly. In this context it is no surprise to see Lynx popping up in the category.

The Lynx product has a premium feel to it, the packaging matches the core brand well and includes a Scratch ‘n’ Sniff ‘try me’ feature. For CAE, it has activated a well known brand really well and brought some freshness to a competitive category. It will be interesting to see what other licensed categories Lynx might move into next.

In the same category, it was interesting to see the fabric conditioner brands Febreze and Lenor available as car air fresheners. These were available in different product formats to Lynx, but were also very much tuned into the core brands and fragrances. These products seemed to be brand extensions developed by the brand owner rather than licensed products.  I am assuming brand owner Procter & Gamble felt more comfortable doing this directly. Again it makes sense to see brands like this move into the category as it extends the lifecycle of the brand, reminds consumers about the product’s attributes and, of course, might win over new consumers. It also allows the brands to feature in retail beyond the aisle we normally find them in.

Licensed cards featured in the greeting cards offer in Wilko.
Licensed cards featured in the greeting cards offer in Wilko.

As mentioned Wilko is a multi product retailer and supports a number of categories in depth. Party and greeting cards are one of those. I didn’t see anything licensing wise in the partyware offer, but licensed cards feature in the greeting cards offer particularly in the kids card section. Peppa Pig, PAW Patrol and Minions were particularly prominent.

Peppa Pig was also a big player in Wilko’s toy department. As we all know, Peppa Pig is a well established character and trusted by retailers. A retailer like Wilko that seems to be more cautious about licensing presently will find Peppa Pig a safe bet and one that it will be happy to support.

Character Options' Peppa Pig products were stocked in Wilko.
Character Options' Peppa Pig products were stocked in Wilko.

I think it will be more difficult to persuade it to back a new property. Specifically Wilko was stocking Character Options’ Peppa Pig products. These plush collectables are made from 100% recycled materials. A good selling point these days.

It will be interesting to see how the Peppa Pig toy line shapes up in the future now that the character is owned by Hasbro.

V&A and the Royal Academy of Arts cards featured prominently in WH Smith.
V&A and the Royal Academy of Arts cards featured prominently in WH Smith.

After Wilko, I made a quick visit to WH Smith. One feature that caught my eye licensing wise was within the greeting cards area. WH Smith seems to be committing more space to cards at the moment.

One stand out feature was an end cap that was dominated by cards featuring the V&A and the Royal Academy of Arts. Both brands are well suited to cards as they are a great source of artwork, but it was interesting to see them both stocked in such depth.

Heritage licensing is a natural fit for cards and it is good to see a retailer like WH Smith putting so much faith into heritage brands.

Ian helped Stuart Lawrence secure the publishing opportunity for his book.
Ian helped Stuart Lawrence secure the publishing opportunity for his book.

On a personal note I was also uplifted to see Stuart Lawrence’s book, Silence Is Not An Option, featuring prominently in the children’s book department. The book was recently published by Scholastic. I helped Stuart secure this publishing opportunity on a pro bono basis.

It was time well spent as Stuart’s book has given him a great platform to talk about issues such as inclusivity, self confidence and, of course, to remember his brother Stephen Lawrence.

I look forward to helping Stuart amplify his voice further over future months. It has been a very rewarding experience helping someone to help others.

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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